“What is Evidence-Based Reading Instruction?”

Evidence-based reading instruction can be defined as a particular approach, a specific strategy, or an instructional method which has had a record of success. There is reliable, trustworthy, and valid evidence to suggest that when this instruction is used with a particular group of children, the children can be expected to make adequate gains in reading achievement. Sometimes the terms “research-based instruction” or “scientifically based research” can be used to express the same idea.  

The Orton-Gillingham approach falls into Evidence-Based Reading Instruction. Here is the research to back that up:

The Five Major Components of Evidence-Based Reading Instruction 

The National Reading Panel (2000) identified five essential components of reading instruction outlined as evidence-based strategies by the National Reading Panel’s report of 2000 and the National Early Literacy Panel Report of 2008. 

Instructional support for students with dyslexia must include these core strategies and practices:  

1. Phonemic Awareness Instruction

Recognizing that words are comprised of individual sounds that can be blended together for reading and pulled
apart or segmented for spelling is what the National Reading Panel refers to as phonemic awareness.  

Phonemic awareness instruction helps all types of children improve reading. This includes normally developing readers, children at risk for future reading problems, disabled readers, preschoolers, kindergartners, 1st graders, children in 2nd – 6th grades who are disabled readers, children across various socioeconomic levels, and children learning to read in English as a second language. 

Phonemic awareness is a crucial skill for all those students learning to read and there is a greater emphasis for phonemic awareness in kindergarten and first grade.

Does Orton-Gillingham Evidence-Based Reading Instruction include Phonemic Awareness? YES! It does! Orton-Gillingham includes phonemic awareness from the very beginning of the instruction until the very end.


2. Systematic Phonics Instruction 

Understanding that individual sounds are represented by letters or groups of letters and the ability to use
those sounds to decode words is what the National Reading Panel refers to as systematic phonics.  

Systematic phonics is taught in a planned sequence with the most common phonograms occurring at the beginning. Each phonogram is taught in isolation with repetition and enough time in between each phonogram for learning and mastery. It includes reviewing and integrating past lessons. Reading and spelling are taught simultaneously. The systematic phonics will begin with the most basic levels of phonics and develop into the most advanced spelling rules and morphological concepts.  

Systematic phonics is a key component to reading because if a student can decode, they can comprehend.  

Does Orton-Gillingham Evidence-Based Reading Instruction include Systematic Phonics? YES! It does! There is a very planned and logical sequence in Orton-Gillingham instruction.


3. Fluency Instruction

Reading text with sufficient speed and accuracy to support comprehension is what
the National Reading Panel refers to as reading fluency.  

The practice of developing fluency in children includes reading accuracy, reading rate and reading expression. Accuracy is listed first because if a child cannot read accurately they will not develop reading fluency. Accurate reading is first developed through systematic phonics. Instruction in reading fluency should include assisting students in developing their ability to use typical speech patterns and appropriate intonation while reading aloud.

Teaching students to read fluently supports comprehension.

Does Orton-Gillingham Evidence-Based Reading Instruction include Reading Fluency? YES! It does! Students are taught to read words, sentences and text fluently in Orton-Gillingham instruction.


4. Vocabulary Instruction

Understanding of individual word meanings in a text is what the National Reading Panel refers to as vocabulary.  

Reading comprehension depends heavily on vocabulary development. Teachers should develop student’s vocabulary knowledge through direct and indirect methods of teaching and students should be exposed to vocabulary both orally and through reading.  

Does Orton-Gillingham Evidence-Based Reading Instruction include Vocabulary Instruction? YES! It does! Students connect spelling instruction with vocabulary, affixes and root/base words in Orton-Gillingham. 


5. Comprehension Instruction

Understanding connected text as the ultimate goal of reading is what the
National Reading Panel refers to as comprehension.

In carrying out its analysis of the research in reading comprehension, the National Reading Panel noted three predominant themes in the research on the development of reading comprehension skills:

  • Reading comprehension is a complex cognitive process that cannot be understood without a clear description of the role that vocabulary development and vocabulary instruction play in the understanding of what has been read. 
  • Reading comprehension is an active process that requires an intentional and thoughtful interaction between the reader and the text. 
  • The preparation of teachers to better equip students to develop and apply reading comprehension strategies to enhance understanding is intimately linked to students’ achievement in this area.

Does Orton-Gillingham Evidence-Based Reading Instruction include Comprehension Instruction? YES! It does! Students connect text using comprehension strategies used by the instructor. These generally include, visualization, predicting, main idea, summarizing and inference.  


Structured Literacy Means 4 More Components! (hang in there)

Evidence based-reading instruction for dyslexia must include all 5 components mentioned above by the National Reading Panel. But…there are still 4 more components of evidence-based reading instruction for dyslexia! Yes…4 more crucial components that a dyslexic child must have.

These 4 more components are systematic, explicit, multisensory and diagnostic instruction. The International Dyslexia Association refers to these additional 4 components as  Structured Literacy Instruction.

Does Orton-Gillingham instruction fall under Structured Literacy? YES! It does! Here is how:

1. Systematic Instruction

A carefully planned sequence for instruction is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as systematic instruction. This plan is carefully thought out, strategic and designed before activities and lessons are developed. Lessons are built on previously taught information, from simple to complex, with clear, concise student objectives that are driven by ongoing assessment. In other words, teachers will teach a new concept using a scope and sequence, review that concept, review it even more, then test before moving to another concept.

In Systematic instruction:

  • Skills are broken down into component parts
  • As specific skills are mastered, they are applied into meaningful text that students can read.
  • Students learn the elements or building blocks of more complex skills, such as how to divide a two or three syllable word to facilitate reading, or how to recognize prefixes and suffixes in multi-syllable words, before they are expected to read those words in content areas.

Instruction across all five components of reading is integrated and decoding skills are practiced in words, sentences, and passages working toward fluency. Vocabulary and comprehension instruction are integrated into each lesson.  


2. Explicit or Direct Instruction

Clearly teaching the skills a student needs to know is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as explicit and direct instruction.

For example: Does the student know the letter-sound correspondences, syllable structures, or morphemic elements (prefixes and suffixes) needed to decode or spell an unknown word? Explicit and direct instruction is what keeps a student from guessing words when reading.  

Research indicates that explicit or direct instruction is the most effective teaching approach for students with reading difficulties.

Explicit instruction includes modeling, guided practice, and independent practice of the skill being taught. For example, the teacher will first present a lesson demonstrating vowel consonant e syllable and model the lesson for the student. The teacher will then do the lesson together with the student, then finally ask the student to do it without guidance. 

In other words –  I do, we do, you do.

The teacher will also provide a lot of practice opportunities for the student in both reading and spelling words with the vowel consonant e syllable so that feedback and reinforcement can be delivered. The teacher will ask the students to form words of syllable types and then ask questions that elicit student responses in explaining the syllable rules.

3. Multisensory Instruction

The use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written language is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as multisensory instruction.

Links are consistently made between the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways in learning to read and spell.

For example, when a student is shown the letter card b, the student says the letter b, then the keyword balloon, then the sound /b/ while writing a b in the air or while tracing the letter b on a bumpy surface.  


4. Diagnostic Teaching

The teacher must be adept at individualized instruction is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as diagnostic teaching. That is instruction that meets a student’s needs. The instruction is based on careful and continuous assessment, both informally (for example, observation) and formally (for example, with standardized measures). The content presented must be mastered to the degree of automaticity. Automaticity is critical to freeing all the student’s attention and cognitive resources for comprehension and expression.


In Summary

Evidence-based reading instruction for dyslexia must include all 5 components outlined by the National Reading Panel. These 5 components are phonemic awareness, systematic phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension instruction.

And…evidence-based reading instruction for dyslexia outlined by the International Dyslexia Association must also include:

  • Systematic Instruction
  • Explicit or Direct Instruction
  • Multisensory Instruction
  • Diagnostic Teaching

The Orton-Gillingham method or approach is evidence-based instruction!